Up Close and Personal

Katie Wilson with sea lion[2]_HP

  Charlie Reed surveyed the marine life surrounding him as he snorkeled off the coast of the Galapagos Islands. Suddenly, two black, glassy eyes gazed back at him. He stared face-to-face at a 200-pound female sea lion. “At first, it was a little scary,” the University of Mary Washington senior said. “Then you realize they are just trying to play.” The Galapagos Islands, the site of a UMW faculty-led Spring Break trip, are known for their biological diversity – and for wildlife that haven’t been conditioned to be afraid of humans. Reed and his 23 fellow UMW students experienced that firsthand during their nine-day trip, a joint effort by Andrew Dolby, professor of biology, and Melanie Szulczewski, assistant professor of environmental science. The trip was one of five faculty-led study abroad experiences over Spring Break, including in Quebec, Guatemala, Austria and India. “What makes this course unique is that it is holistic,” Dolby said. Students will receive … [Read more...]

Lift Off

STEM_HP

Olivia Schiermeyer led fifth graders in a countdown as she manned a miniature rocket launcher at the “3…2…1 Lift Off” station. Several covered their ears in anticipation of the blast. … [Read more...]

In Search of Turtles

Senior Bryan Finch measures a turtle he found near the Fredericksburg Canal.

An uncommon turtle discovery has sparked detective work between a University of Mary Washington professor and his students that will help shed light on the species in the Fredericksburg region. More than two years ago, Professor of Biology Werner Wieland asked students in one of his classes to bring in a local animal. Much to Wieland’s surprise, one student brought in a species of turtle – a yellow-bellied slider – that is not known to occur in the Fredericksburg area. The find brought up questions for Wieland— was this turtle an isolated case or is there a bigger population established? With the help of seniors Yoshi Takeda and Bryan Finch, Wieland has spent the last two summers finding out. Wieland’s project is one of dozens funded through UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program started in 1999. The students and professors will present their work at an all-day symposium on Wednesday, July 24. This summer, Wieland and his students … [Read more...]

Seeking Feathered Friends

Andrew Dolby 4

For Andrew Dolby, a stressed-out bird is a big deal. Dolby, professor and chair of the biology department, is researching the stress response in birds, specifically, the Tufted Titmouse. During the spring semester he worked with three students to catch birds on UMW property and at sites in southern Stafford County. They took their measurements and vital signs and collected small blood samples for fellow biology professor Deborah O’Dell to perform heat shock protein analysis in the Jepson Hall labs. Heat shock proteins, similar in function to stress hormones, are indicators of chronic stress. Sources of chronic stress for a bird might be habitat deterioration, parasitism, or long-term food shortages.  Dolby and O’Dell received a grant from the Virginia Society of Ornithology for the unique project. “Only two other laboratories in North America are using heat shock proteins to study stress in free-ranging birds,” Dolby said. Since the proteins are found in almost every organism, … [Read more...]